Many can be called, but very few are chosen. Chosen to lead, chosen to impact, chosen to inspire.
Since pursuing his passion in 2009, he is unapologetic, determined to impact and change lives by any means necessary. He has the ability to provide much-needed understanding to others; he provides many with the opportunity to grasp wisdom. Indeed, a positive person he is; a quality he honestly wouldn’t have any other way.
He’s seeing things clearly, yet he’s still running into his own roadblocks. He recognizes that there is no bigger obstacle than him and it’s this acknowledgement that makes his movement and purpose ever the more powerful.
He is motivational. He is an eloquent speaker. A Chief Executive Officer, a husband and a father; He is Driven2Inspire. He is, Robert Felder.
Inspirational Trainer, Motivational Speaker, Co-Founder and CEO of Driven2inspire, Robert Felder. Thanks for joining me! You launched Driven2inspire in 2009. Tell me about the inspiration behind doing so?
RF: The inspiration behind starting Driven2inspire was another program called Developing Tomorrow’s Professionals, in which I was and still am an Academic Mentor. That program is aimed at helping young boys of color start to discover what it means to be a man, but also start to be academically astute.
From my work at Developing Tomorrow’s Professionals, I got the opportunity to give my first speech in the summer of 2008. People were standing up and clapping and I was like “OK, this is new!” From that, I got the opportunity to sit on the panel for the Connecticut Governors Summit on Drop Out Rates. After I finished, people were running up to me giving me their cards. One lady who was a teacher asked if I would be interested in talking to her students, I agreed to go as long as I could bring other people with me. I actually brought about five guys to the school and we talked to [the students] about dreams and goals and asked them about their biggest obstacles. As I shared thoughts about my life, one of the female students said she wanted to be a lawyer and she started crying. Like balling, cry me a river type tears! When she started crying, I started praying. One, that I didn’t cry and Two that I would be given the strength to see her through to understanding her true self worth. She was crying because her mom told her she’d be just like her, have kids by multiple men, live in the projects, and not finish school. I was able to help her see he true value and how to deal with negativity that’s so close to you and doing that made me think wow if I can impact people like this for the rest of my life, I don’t know why I would want to do anything different!
Why do you think the World needs Driven2inspire?
RF: I think it’s evident through history. When you think about people who make an impact, the biggest thing they have always been able to do is clarify things. Being able to give guidance in a way that other people couldn’t. Right now especially, that’s we need in the United States. Many of us lack clarity, it’s tough for us to grasp certain things, and many others we discount by saying they can’t change and that they don’t care. Sometimes, they just don’t know. Why be selfish with something that I know, especially when I know it can help others.
You continuously mention this idea or mantra of “help others”. Growing up, were you always that person that wanted to help?
RF: In some cases, I’ve been the person that would run from his own battles but would fight someone else’s growing up in urban America, between bullies and different fights, you find yourself always having to pick a side. I chose the side of helping others if I felt that they couldn’t handle the situation or the outcome.
Much of that also ties in to me always being an entrepreneur. Being able to recognize what someone lacks goes along way when you’re helping others especially if you’re going to get paid. [laughs]
It took me a while to realize that is who I’ve always been. As I got older, I figured why should I settle for someone else’s dream when I can birth my own? So now it’s taking all of the assets of being a slick, fast-talking individual who on a really good day it’s tough to out talk me. I’ve always been a positive person, a person willing to tell people “You can do it!” Recognizing that was key.
You briefly talked about the power of finding your dream or your passion. Do you think at this point in your life, you’ve found your passion and you’re running with it?
RF: Yes. I’m not running though, I’m skipping. I have a mean skip game![laughs] There’s no hesitation, there’s just no bigger obstacle than me. When I say I’m skipping, I know all of the things that I have to do and I also know what’s stopping me from doing those things. I’m still running into my own roadblocks, I haven’t gotten out of my own way yet. It’s a gift and a curse when you can see things clearly.
What drives Rob to inspire?
RF: When I was in college, I played football and I wanted to get to the NFL. The reason why was because I wanted to help my boys’ children get to places that we couldn’t get to at the moment. The NFL didn’t happen, however the thing that you felt you needed, or that you thought was your avenue to do what you were going to do is usually just a door to get you to where you’re supposed to be.
Who is Rob Felder?
RF: [laughs] He is super funny.
Does everyone else think that you’re super funny or do you just think that? [laughs]
RF: Everybody thinks I’m funny except my wife! I’m enthusiastic, passionate, caring but also analytical and on the low, a secret nerd.
Tell me about growing up in Jersey because you say often how you left Jersey. Did something happen that you had to leave Jersey?
RF: No, not me. [laughs] My father was in and out of jail for 15 years, so it was my mom and a bunch of other awesome women in my family who raised me, so I was always connected to emotion. During that time, my role models were the guys on the corner, the hustlers who were also thieves and robbers. I never really had any problems with being a bad person. I did hang with people who did bad things, but it was never who I was. While still in Jersey, I went to college for basketball, but I didn’t want to practice to be better for the NBA, not saying I would have made it, but I was not going to practice to get there if I could. So my priorities started to shift from Basketball to football, at the same time, I was rapping.
Wait! You were rapping?
RF: [laughs] Yes, yes I was rapping. I had a choice to make. Either I was going to rap, play basketball or play football. This was right around the time Kanye came out and was saying how he would make five beats a day. I was working on doing five songs a day. I needed to get better. I needed to put metaphors and similes together and be able to touch people. But I decided on football, I thought it had better odds [Laughs]
A guy I knew helped to get me into Southern Connecticut University. I was up there for six days and was sent home because I didn’t have enough credits. As I walked out, one coach told me to enjoy the rest of life because New Jersey guys that go home never come back. Another coach told me to not go home and get killed, which was a rude reality for young me growing up in the ghettos of America.
I called my mom let her know what just happened and she was like “what do you mean you don’t have enough credits? Give me the coach’s number!” I called my father who had been out of jail for a few years at that point and really getting his life to were he needed it to be. He gave me the best advice a dad could give. He told me “I didn’t have time to cry or be upset”. If I really wanted it I was going to come home and do whatever I needed to do. Monday by 6pm, I was in class at a community college in New Jersey, back on my grind, to get the rest of my credits.
It’s funny how roadblocks start to popup when you are getting closer to your dreams. I actually got the rest of my credits, and the day before I was to go back to Connecticut I decide threw my home city in my new Infiniti and I pulled over to talk to some old friends. While talking I hear pop pop pop, which I brush off as fire crackers. Something told me to start walking away from the crowd and then I realized they were shooting. I got down, it was a drive-by. They were chasing someone I grew up with. I prayed Lord don’t let him get shot but don’t let him stop. Because in my mind if he stopped, they stopped. And when they stop, they’re close to me and they may recognize me and shoot me. They didn’t stop and he got away which was a good thing, however the outcome could have been much different. That brings me to today. That’s a little bit of Jersey.
Congrats on the success of your inspirational quotes. I see the hustle. Is the image of Rob Felder different from Driven2inspire?
RF: It’s not for the money it’s for the impact. Driven2inspire and Rob Felder are one, my name is just not Driven2inspire. I have to create something just for me. Truth be told, a lot of times people can embrace a person, but can’t embrace a company. It took me a while to realize that.
Many of the quotes people are now seeing over the past few months, I’ve been doing for four years. I would get 10-15 likes. And then I connected pictures to the quotes and my name and it got like 1,000 likes. That was just among the people I knew! So I thought without the company, without the movement, let me just give people somebody they could relate to.
What do you want to leave behind?
RF: A different world; meaning no more people being taught or feeling like they’re less than others because they look different. People happen to feel like our only blessings are going to be when we reach Heaven, when thy can be and do awesome things now. Helping people break free of mental chains, and a way for people to do that is what I want to leave behind.
What’s next for Rob?
RF: I’m working on a leadership summit for college students. We had one at UNH [University of New Haven] and now we’re teaming up with the Black Man Institute for a few days in the Ferguson area. I have a number of different events like helping high school teachers connect with their students better and a few career trainings for college student I’m working on.
The stuff that I preach to people, I’m working on practicing. Not just practice but conquer and dominate!
One word that describes Rob Felder and why? And you can’t use driven! [laughs]
RF: [laughs] It’s caring. On any given day, I’m thinking about how I can help others and make things better. A lot of that comes from truly carrying for other people. I just want people to want better, feel better and be awesome. I want people to be Driven2inspire.